Dance vs Sports – The preferred surfaces are perform differently

Recently I had the opportunity to visit and dance floor testing devicetest several dance floors. Those that are familiar with dancers, sports athletes, dance floors and sports surfaces know that the surface a dancer likes is very different than the surface that a sports athlete likes. Those familiar with performance surfaces know that two surfaces can achieve the same force reduction performance levels but yet ‘feel’ significantly different. So during that trip and in the days since I started to wonder why and how we in the sports testing field might develop tests that better represent unique features of dance.

The difference between ‘feel’ and ‘performance’ as noted above is key. In fact during this past year I’ve tested a surface where a traditional ‘sports surface’ was installed at a dance facility. The dancers felt that it was hard and did not like it’s response. I offer this as a caution to architects, while some sports surfaces can provide the ‘feeling’ that a dancer may like, not all of them do. If you are designing a dance facility and would like some assistance from a 3rd party regarding what designs might be appropriate for your facility, contact us at ASET Services and we’d be glad to assist you.

One of my theories is that there is a vast difference between the physique of a dancer and that of a basketball/volleyball player. There are also vast differences in the effective joints of each group as they are active on their surface. It may be that a floor that provides ‘good’ force reduction levels to one group is incapable of providing similar performance to the other group, and that our testing methods are not yet sophisticated enough to account for that.

Another of my theories piggybacks on the first, and it is that what is required of dancers is so much different than what is required of an athlete. Dance requires highly choreographed moves that are performed in rapid succession. Often with requiring the dancer to exert take-off forces while the body is also experiencing landing forces. Athletes tend to be asked to make one large jump and then upon landing tend to have some time to reflect and prepare for the next event.

I have not found data to support my theory but I believe much of the reasons dancers prefer a different feel to their floor is that dancers often exert their take-off forces with the surface partially compressed from the previous landing. That is a move that an athlete may perform occasionally but not as often as a dancer, so the athlete puts preferences on different aspects of the surface’s performance. As an example, dancer may therefore be seeking a greater energy return because even slight improvements would greatly change fatigue levels after a performance. Because the athlete often has time to wait until the next play before initiating the next jumping movement the effects of lower energy return levels might not be as noticeable or as important.

Regardless of your sport or activity, if you want to know that your new or old dance or sports surface is performing properly, contact ASET to set up an on-site evaluation and inspection.

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